Meaning of Anaphora


The etymology of anaphora leads to a Greek word that translates as “repetition” and reached Latin as anaphora. The concept has several uses and is usually linked to a rhetorical figure that consists of repeating terms or ideas on purpose with an aesthetic or discursive intention.

For example: “I always think of you, / I always have your face in mind. / I always remember that summer night, / I always miss the other ”. In this case, the anaphora consists of the repetition of the word “always” at the beginning of each verse.

In the field of oratory, anaphora can be used to emphasize ideas. It is a resource that is often used by political leaders in electoral campaigns. A candidate for president can affirm in a speech: “I will not accept pressure from the powerful; I will not yield to threats from corporations; I will not let go of my convictions; I will not forget my commitments to the people… ”. As can be seen, the anaphora used implies repeating “I am not going to” at the beginning of the different sentences.

It is important to take care of the way in which this resource is used, since it can be ineffective if it is abused or if the inappropriate parts are repeated. On the other hand, anaphora is not always necessary, another reason why we should study its potential effects before including it in a text. When more than one word is repeated, the length of the sentence should not be excessive, as this could cause some interference to the message.

All this leads us to think that anaphora is a very difficult resource to use effectively and with good taste. Far from being a mere and arbitrary repetition of words, it serves to group together a series of ideas and concepts that we wish to emphasize and highlight, without interrupting the flow of the text and in a way that can remain engraved in the reader’s mind if it is done in an aesthetic and moderate way.

For linguistics, anaphora is the identity link established between an element of grammar and one or more terms that were mentioned previously. In this area it has three well-differentiated senses, although they are related in a certain way:

* the use of an expression that can only be interpreted with the help of another, which is found in the context of the speech and is called the antecedent;

* the expression itself (usually a pronoun) whose meaning depends on another that can also be found in context. In this case, it speaks of deictics, that is, of words whose meaning depends on the issuer and that can only be determined based on it;

* Faced with a restrictive interpretation of the two previous points, we understand anaphora only as the cases in which the context is before the anaphora. On the contrary, we can speak of a cataphora, to refer to deictics who have a referent located after them in the text.

To understand this meaning of the term anaphora, let’s look at the following example: «Before she was promoted to director of marketing, Adela worked in the technical service sector»; As can be seen, the pronoun “la” refers to “Adela”, and it is found before we can understand its meaning, which is why it responds to what is described in point 2, although it can also be a cataphora, according to the vision restricted to point 3. All this is part of the concept of linguistics known as endophore.

Anaphora, finally, is a fragment of the liturgy that has different correspondences according to the rite in question.